100 years of BBC Wales

It all started as a crackling radio transmission of a folk song picked up by a few people in Cardiff and the South Wales Valleys, but a century later has grown into a bilingual multi-channel institution and industry churning out radio broadcasts. hit television featuring Daleks, dæmons and detectives.

The story of the BBC in Wales, which has involved its fair share of protests and controversy over what should be broadcast – and in what language – is told through an exhibition at the National Museum Cardiff in the Welsh capital.

BBC 100 in Wales details the company’s history from when getting radio and TV signals across the mountains was a technological challenge, to the modern era when shows such as Doctor Who, His Dark Materials and Benedict Cumberbatch on Sherlock Holmes are made in Cardiff and have a global reach.

David Anderson, chief executive of Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, said the BBC had played a vital role in the development of modern Wales. “Over the past century, the BBC and other public broadcasting services have been the bedrock of our democracy and our understanding and engagement with the world,” he said.

The history of BBC Wales began on February 13, 1923 when opera singer Mostyn Thomas sang the folk song Dafydd y Garreg Wen from a studio in Cardiff’s Castle Street. Programs were transmitted with an aerial strong enough to reach listeners in the capital and parts of the south Wales valleys.

Television came to Wales 30 years later via the Wenvoe transmitter in the Vale of Glamorgan, which also served people in the South West of England. The first Welsh-language program aired the following year, but non-speakers protested on both sides of the border.

A copy of the 1962 BBC radio lecture Tynged yr Iaith – the fate of language – by writer and political activist Saunders Lewis features prominently in the exhibition.

He called on the people of Welsh to take revolutionary action to ensure the survival of their language and his lecture is seen by many as a catalyst for the formation of Cymdeithas yr Iaith Gymraeg (the Welsh language society), whose members took direct action to campaign for the Welsh language. radio and television stations.

A plush toy – Wales’ own SuperTed – is a highlight of the display. One of the bear’s animated adventures was the first broadcast on Welsh-language channel S4C. There is also a pub sign for the Welsh-language soap opera Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley), which has been on the air for almost half a century.

Along with telling a serious story, the exhibit also has its fair share of nostalgia opportunities, including appearances from characters from favorite kids’ shows such as Bagpuss and Teletubbies. And, naturally, there’s a Dalek and a Tardis – Doctor Who has been made in South Wales since its 2005 relaunch.

There are also recreations of a 1970s living room with episodes of The Two Ronnies and Morecambe and Wise shown on TV, a vintage BBC news studio and a TV storefront reminiscent of the days when people without their own television watched from the sidewalk.

Anderson said: ‘We hope that visitors to the exhibition will be inspired by the story of the BBC and where that story can go in the future, but we also hope that it will give them comfort and an opportunity to reflect. to their own story after the lonely years that many of us have experienced recently.

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